Zizheng, don’t cry

It was late at night, and darkness enveloped the surroundings in complete silence.
Mama Lu decided to let Lu Zizheng and Jiang Huaixi stay overnight at home.
Seeing that Lu Zizheng seemed somewhat hesitant, Jiang Huaixi gently persuaded, “It’s been a while since you last accompanied Auntie.
How about not going back tonight? Tomorrow morning, I’ll come early to take you home, so you can change your clothes and then I’ll drive you to work.
There’s still plenty of time.”

Upon hearing this, Lu Zizheng hesitated for a moment and shook her head lightly.

Jiang Huaixi raised an eyebrow and asked, “Is there a problem?”

Lu Zizheng licked her lips and said, “Do you have plans for tonight?”

Jiang Huaixi succinctly replied, “No.”

“Well, then, why don’t you stay as well?” It was the first time she had taken the initiative to invite Jiang Huaixi to spend the night, and evidently, Jiang Huaixi was somewhat surprised.
She momentarily paused, unable to hide her astonishment.
Lu Zizheng pretended to be casual and added, “Otherwise, it would be troublesome for you to keep coming and going.
I… I also feel quite embarrassed about it.”

Upon hearing this, Jiang Huaixi couldn’t help but smile and curl her lips.
“It’s rare to hear you say ’embarrassed’ to me.
It’s such a rare occurrence that it’s making my ears feel warm.” She then playfully tilted her head towards Mama Lu and said, “Auntie, can you check if my face has turned red?”

Mama Lu simply squinted and smiled as she watched the two of them.

Lu Zizheng glared at Jiang Huaixi with embarrassment and said to Mama Lu, “Mom, I’m going to take a shower.” After speaking, she ignored them and went to her room to get her pajamas.

In the living room, only Jiang Huaixi and Mama Lu remained, watching TV together.

Mama Lu handed Jiang Huaixi a neatly cut piece of fruit from the coffee table, sighing with emotion.
“Huaixi, I still remember the scene when Zizheng first brought you home.
In the blink of an eye, so many years have passed.”

Jiang Huaixi took a small bite and smiled, saying, “Yes, Mama Lu, you wouldn’t believe it, but Zizheng reluctantly brought me home that time.
Seeing how warmly you welcomed me, she was almost furious.” Thinking back to Zizheng’s stubborn demeanor at that time, Jiang Huaixi’s ink-like eyes carried a deep tenderness.
It was truly nostalgic.

Mama Lu smiled knowingly.
“How could I not know? But you know, Huaixi, from the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you had no ill intentions towards Zizheng.
I knew you were a good child who wanted to treat her well.”

Jiang Huaixi felt a touch of guilt, finished eating the fruit, and lowered her head without speaking.

Mama Lu continued, “Over these years, Zizheng has benefited greatly from your company.
She has become much happier.
You may not know about her past…” Before she could finish her sentence, she let out a deep sigh.
“Anyway, Auntie thanks you for being so good to Zizheng all these years.
Sometimes, she can be difficult and doesn’t know how to express herself.
If there were any moments in these years where she was thoughtless or unintentionally hurt you, Auntie apologizes on her behalf.”

Jiang Huaixi shook her head and said, “No, Auntie, there’s no need.
I also want to thank Zizheng.
She has brought me a lot of happiness.”

Mama Lu said, “Huaixi, Auntie really likes you, but it’s a pity…” She didn’t finish her sentence, but the regret in her tone was clear to Jiang Huaixi.

Jiang Huaixi could vaguely guess what Mama Lu wanted to say and felt a sense of regret as well.
However, she smiled and reassured her, “Good friends can stay together for a long time, right?”

Mama Lu looked at Jiang Huaixi thoughtfully, smiled, and didn’t say anything.

As the night grew late, when Jiang Huaixi came out after taking a shower, Mama Lu had already tidied up everything on the bed.
She added an extra blanket and a pillow to Zizheng’s bed.
Zizheng was lazily leaning against the bed, reading with her head down.

For a moment, Jiang Huaixi was a bit lost in thought, her movements slowing down.
Leaning against the door, she quietly watched Lu Zizheng.

Unprepared for her first overnight stay at Lu Zizheng’s mother’s house, Jiang Huaixi discovered in Zizheng’s room a bathroom with couple’s toothbrushes, cups, and towels.
In her wardrobe, there were brand-new underwear, sleepwear, and nightgowns that fit her size.

It seemed that over the years, Lu Zizheng had still kept a warm spot in her heart for Jiang Huaixi.

Jiang Huaixi squinted her eyes, feeling a great sense of accomplishment.

Mama Lu knocked on the door and entered with two cups of milk.
Jiang Huaixi had always maintained a good routine, so she finished her milk, looked at the clock pointing to ten, and pulled up the blanket, preparing to go to sleep.

Lu Zizheng drank her milk and saw that Jiang Huaixi was already in a comfortable sleeping position, so she closed her book, turned off the light, and lay down to sleep.
It wasn’t her usual bedtime, and with her eyes closed, she couldn’t fall asleep right away.

After a while, Lu Zizheng gave in.
She opened her eyes, turned her head, and looked at Jiang Huaixi beside her, only to find her peaceful and seemingly fast asleep.
Lu Zizheng quietly watched her for a long time, finally giving a faint smile before closing her eyes.
She didn’t know when exactly, but eventually, she drifted off to sleep.

However, her sleep was not restful.

She dreamt of the scene when Lian Xuan first spoke to her.

It was shortly after they had entered high school.
A transfer student arrived in their class, rumored to have returned from England.
She came from a prestigious family, excelled in academics, and what was even more rare, she possessed remarkable beauty, resembling a princess straight out of a fairy tale castle.
For a while, all attention was on her.
Lu Zizheng shared the same class and sat at the desk next to her, so she naturally took notice, but it was only as an observer.
At that time, all she wanted was to live quietly and inconspicuously in her own world, without disturbing anyone, and most importantly, without being disturbed by anyone.

Lian Xuan was an unexpected intruder in her world.

At that time, Lu Zizheng was the only one in the class sitting alone at a single desk because the homeroom teacher didn’t allow boys and girls to sit together, and the girls, in particular, were unwilling to sit with Lu Zizheng.

During an English quiz, the teacher asked everyone to take out the test paper, but on that particular day, Lu Zizheng, who was always well-prepared, had forgotten to bring her English test paper.

Everyone had their papers and pens ready, and the teacher was about to begin the test.
Lu Zizheng bit her lip, feeling helpless.
Just as she was about to use a blank paper for the test, a lined English test paper suddenly appeared, handed over from the neighboring desk.
Lu Zizheng was momentarily surprised, and so were her classmates, who let out a faint sound of astonishment.

Meanwhile, the owner of the paper, Lian Xuan, remained calm and friendly, giving Lu Zizheng a smile before turning her attention back to the teacher’s dictation.

Lian Xuan had no idea that her unintentional actions and casual smile illuminated Lu Zizheng’s dreary first year of high school, bringing a faint glimmer of life to her nearly withered heart.

Lu Zizheng cautiously began her friendship with Lian Xuan, guarding their bond with utmost care, exerting almost all her efforts.

Whenever Lian Xuan got closer to her, Lu Zizheng would rejoice with a surge of emotions.
She knew she had crossed boundaries in her emotional yearning for Lian Xuan.

Lian Xuan was oblivious to it all, and it didn’t matter.
Lu Zizheng could endure it, she could wait, she was willing.
She humbled herself, lowering herself to the dust, all for the hope that one day Lian Xuan would see her humility and be willing to accept her sincere affection.

But one day, Lian Xuan pushed her away.
With a tone filled with disdain and contempt, she said, “Lu Zizheng, you’re truly disgusting.
They were right about you.
You’re just like those power-hungry people, doing everything you can to gain benefits from me.
I misjudged you.
Go away.”

In that moment, her heart sank, turning cold, and her spirit felt as lifeless as ashes.
Yet, she still struggled to plead with Lian Xuan, “Lian Xuan, it’s not what you think.
Can we just pretend I never brought up that matter? Please?” Forgetting she still held the umbrella, she reached out both hands, grabbing onto Lian Xuan’s left arm.

Lian Xuan forcefully used her right hand to pry open Lu Zizheng’s grip, bit by bit.
Finally, with a complex expression, she glanced at Lu Zizheng, boarded the waiting car for her pickup, and vanished in a cloud of dust.
As the car started moving, the splashing water ruthlessly drenched Lu Zizheng from head to toe, the parting gift from Lian Xuan—a filthy shower that left her in disarray.

In her despair, Lu Zizheng abandoned all dignity, calling out Lian Xuan’s name and chasing after the car for a long, long stretch of road, until she could no longer catch up, unable to see the vehicle’s shadow anymore…

“Lian Xuan, you promised to believe in me…”

She collapsed weakly onto the ground, soaked through, in a pitiful state.
She knew many passing classmates were watching her, mocking her.
She also knew this incident would become another subject of ridicule and humiliation for her.
However, she lacked the strength to stand up and defend the remnants of her dignity.

That day, she couldn’t recall how she made it home.
In her memory, all that remained were the surging tears overflowing…

During the night, she developed a high fever.
Taking three days off, combined with the weekend, she stayed hidden at home for a total of five days.
On Monday, when she returned to school, she still naively held onto the hope that she could explain things to Lian Xuan, that maybe there was still a chance for a turning point, that Lian Xuan would believe her.

But upon reaching the school, amidst the whispers and pointed fingers from others, she learned that Lian Xuan had transferred away.

She distinctly heard the sound of her heart shattering.

She vanished.

She would never come back.

Carrying with her the battered yet rarely sincere heart of Lu Zizheng.

Lu Zizheng cried on the desk for the entire morning.

She knew that all her classmates were saying that she had driven Lian Xuan away.
They all said that Lu Zizheng was a disgusting lesbian who had scared Lian Xuan away with her persistent pursuit.
They said that Lu Zizheng, being fatherless and poor, only knew how to cling to wealthy individuals.
Look, she got dumped, didn’t she? They said that Lu Zizheng was a despicable person, relying on her somewhat attractive appearance, liking women but also seducing men.
They said that Lu Zizheng…

Lu Zizheng had also forgotten how she got home that afternoon.

Afterwards, she never returned to that high school.

She disappeared, just like Lian Xuan, leaving only a topic for casual conversations among her former classmates.

As she woke from the dream, Lu Zizheng could still hear Lian Xuan’s chilling words echoing in her ears, “You’re disgusting, go away.” Her gaze was filled with disdain, piercing her heart like a sharp sword.
Lu Zizheng jolted awake in panic, feeling the dampness at the corners of her eyes, a few strands of hair sticking to her face.
The pillow beneath her was already moistened.

She turned her head and looked at Jiang Huaixi beside her.
Thankfully, she hadn’t been awakened.

Jiang Huaixi slept peacefully, with long and dense lashes naturally curled, breathing calmly and serenely.
Lu Zizheng suddenly felt an unusual sense of tranquility.

She extended her hands from under the blanket, turned her body, and gently, through the layers of fabric, embraced Jiang Huaixi, resting her head gently against her chest.
The blanket was thick, and she couldn’t hear Jiang Huaixi’s heartbeat, but she could feel the rise and fall of her chest with each steady breath, one after another…

The sense of fulfillment in her embrace filled the emptiness in her heart after waking from the dream.
Lu Zizheng felt a deep longing and tenderness.
She buried herself in the covers, smiling softly, whispering in her heart, “I love you…”

Little did she know that as she held her, with closed eyes, Jiang Huaixi repeated over and over again in her mind, “Zizheng, don’t cry…”

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